ESG in Singapore: A top priority for growing businesses

ESG in Singapore: A top priority for growing businesses

With environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues now top of mind for investors, consumers and communities around the world, businesses are quickly embracing sustainable practices to secure their long-term success.

Many governments are committing to net zero targets in an effort to address climate risk, meaning businesses must now take action to minimise their carbon footprint and help deliver these targets. In Singapore, ESG expectations among stakeholders are prompting businesses to start tracking their emissions to meet demands for transparency and traceability in supply chain management.

Further, climate reporting is now mandatory for public Singapore companies, and the Singapore stock exchange (SGX) has released a list of 27 recommended core ESG metrics for companies to report against. Many forward-thinking private companies are choosing to use these metrics too.

In this article, we speak to Tina Thomas, Head of ESG for BoardRoom, about the key ESG issues impacting decision-making in business today and the top strategies Singaporean companies can use to safeguard their future.

What is ESG risk?

ESG practices should now be ingrained into companies’ operations and risk management plans. According to Tina, listed companies that ignore ESG matters may encounter major regulatory compliance problems (potentially resulting in legal action or loss of their licence to operate) and experience a loss of customers. For private companies, ESG disclosure is not yet mandatory, but it must be part of their long-term strategy. “Customers now have the choice of whether to buy from a sustainable company, so there’s a market risk if companies ignore ESG matters,” she says. Specific ESG risks vary between businesses depending on the nature of their operations.

ESG Risk

Some risks now critical for many businesses include:

1. Environmental risk

Businesses with carbon-intensive operations and products should implement strategies to reduce emissions and save energy.
Waste management
Companies must assess how they manage their waste, whether hazardous or non-hazardous, liquid or solid.
Water management
With water stress on the rise, businesses should consider the water source used in their operations (especially manufacturing businesses) and switch to sustainable procurement methods where possible.

2. Social risk

Issues that can drive business risk include worker rights, gender and racial equality, child labour and environmental effects on people’s health. Companies should also support employee wellbeing and provide valuable training opportunities. This helps attract and retain talent and offers a range of flow-on benefits (e.g., better productivity and efficiency) for improved business outcomes.

3. Governance risk

Good governance is essential for ESG success as it not only guarantees that businesses operate safely and fairly within their respective sectors, but also ensures responsible practices in areas such as borrowing, internal risk management, anti-money laundering (AML), and compliance with relevant acts and regulations. A lack of good governance will not go unnoticed by stakeholders.

What ESG opportunities can I explore?

In addition to mitigating ESG risk, Singaporean businesses can also build their resilience by being first movers in the ESG space and making use of new opportunities the market poses for companies.

“If a company does not understand the ESG landscape, they might miss all the opportunities available,” Tina says. “For example, some companies are introducing plant-based products to capture new clients. Or there may be opportunities for expansion, new technology or market streams.”

From a social perspective, a strong corporate governance framework is crucial for businesses as it empowers them to establish and enforce ethical standards, ensuring fair work conditions and promoting transparency across their supply chains to responsibly monitor and protect the rights of workers. This strategy benefits not only your business but society at large.

ESG opportunities

What are the benefits of sustainable practices?

Sustainable practices can benefit Singaporean companies in various ways, depending on the nature of the business and its industry.

Some prominent practices include:

Adopting a low-carbon business mode
This protects the longevity of carbon-intensive businesses for whom renewable energy poses an existential threat.
Implementing efficiency enhancements
Manufacturing businesses that enhance the efficiency of their machines, operations or workspaces can enjoy cost savings.
Improving working conditions
Good working conditions improve employee morale and productivity.

Initiatives like these have additional benefits, including improved brand reputation, more robust regulatory compliance and reduced policy costs (e.g. carbon tax).

How a diverse workforce promotes social responsibility

In today’s rapidly changing world, the benefits of sustainable practices and diversity and inclusion are more interconnected than ever before. Embracing a diverse workforce and fostering an inclusive environment presents a valuable opportunity for businesses to perform better and be more innovative.

“Without diversity, people think alike and have the same or similar views, so there’s little to no creativity,” Tina explains.

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is a positive social factor for employees, while it can be a governance strength for board members.

“The SGX emphasises that the boards have to be diverse – this is mainly to champion the idea that having the right mix of individuals with the right education, background and experience level is important for ensuring a business is well run,” Tina says.

Furthermore, embracing D&I helps to create an open workplace culture that is accepting of differences and more adaptable to change in an uncertain world.

How does ESG impact business decisions?

ESG is now shaping business decisions to a significant degree. Whether a company is buying or investing in a business or improving parts of its own group, ESG considerations are now a standard part of commercial and financial due diligence processes.

Primary ESG considerations commonly include:

  • climate change and its potential impacts on the business (e.g. the threat of natural disasters and drought);
  • resource depletion and the limits it may place on resource consumption within a business’ operations;
  • possibilities for emissions reduction and the conservation of resources (like water);
  • the potential to adopt a circular business model that enables reuse and recycling to maximise resource efficiency and minimise waste; and
  • the importance of good corporate governance, a hallmark of well-run companies that builds trust among consumers and investors while reducing compliance risk.

To ensure business decisions consider key ESG factors, leaders should develop a comprehensive ESG strategy and engage with stakeholders to promote open dialogue. “They also need to invest in sustainable business practices and monitor and report on their progress,” Tina says.

ESG Impact

How do I promote strong corporate governance?

An effective way to drive good governance in your organisation is by ensuring senior management and board members take ownership of ESG performance.

“These leaders play a key role in setting the tone from the top in terms of following governance standards and responding to ESG risks and opportunities,” Tina says.

It is also essential for leaders to fully understand ESG, as this will empower them to make strategic decisions around resource management and risk mitigation and successfully lead their business through ESG transformation.

What support is available for ESG in Singapore?

When it comes to proactively responding to ESG risks and opportunities, the assistance of an experienced ESG services provider can be invaluable.

BoardRoom’s ESG Singapore team helps businesses throughout the Asia-Pacific region translate their ESG efforts into valuable competitive advantages, including:

  • a steadier investor base;
  • reduced cost of capital;
  • increased access to financing;
  • higher staff engagement; and
  • stronger customer loyalty.

As a globally minded firm with offices throughout Asia Pacific, we leverage the diversity of our teams to deliver high-quality, carefully tailored ESG solutions.

ESG Support Singapore

BoardRoom’s holistic ESG services

The assistance BoardRoom provides as part of our end-to-end ESG service includes (but is not limited to):

  • undertaking a materiality assessment to identify which ESG issues your company should respond to and report on;
  • conducting a gap analysis to evaluate compliance with stakeholder expectations;
  • gathering valuable ESG data with our innovative, easy-to-use ESG Access platform; and
  • setting data-driven key performance indicators and targets for ESG performance.

We provide full ESG life-cycle management for all types of businesses, from growing SMEs new to ESG to large multinational corporations wanting to take their sustainability practices to the next level.

Wherever you are on your ESG journey, we are ready to assist.

Elevated ESG reporting

Our ESG professionals can also help you enhance your ESG performance in the eyes of key stakeholder groups through robust, efficient sustainability reporting.

Public and private companies alike should adhere to globally recognised frameworks to ensure their sustainability reports meet stakeholder expectations.

Publicly listed companies must now disclose their ESG management in line with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations. Many businesses also follow the Global Reporting Initiative Standards in their reporting.

With our guidance, you can confidently use the best ESG frameworks and methodology for your business.

Realise your ESG goals

Contemporary businesses must ensure they are effectively responding to ESG risks and opportunities if they are to thrive within Singapore, Asia and beyond. BoardRoom’s ESG experts can help implement a customised ESG strategy for your organisation, promoting ongoing sustainability and profitability.

We offer a full suite of complementary corporate services in addition to ESG support, including company secretarial, company incorporation, accounting and bookkeeping, payroll, share registry, employee stock option plans, XBRL conversion and filing, tax advisory and filing and international accounting and tax. This means you can easily combine services to ensure your business is fully supported to achieve its expansion goals.

Contact us to find out more about elevating ESG in Singapore.

Contact BoardRoom for more information:


Tina Thomas

Head of Environmental, Social and Governance

E: [email protected]

T: +65 6536 5355

Related Business Insights

The advantages of meaningful ESG practices and sustainability reporting for businesses in Singapore

Gain a competitive advantage through meaningful sustainability reporting Banner

The advantages of meaningful ESG practices and sustainability reporting for businesses in Singapore

Singapore recently raised its national climate target to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 – earlier than previously committed. In the announcement, the National Climate Change Secretariat urged the region’s public and private sectors to play their part in shaping a low-carbon future.

The change comes as expectations for genuine environmental, social, and governance (ESG) action and corporate social responsibility continue to grow throughout the Asia-Pacific region and worldwide.

In this article, we speak to Tina Thomas, Head of ESG for BoardRoom, about how businesses in Singapore can enhance their ESG performance in the eyes of stakeholders through high-quality sustainability reporting and by using ESG reporting frameworks.

The importance of sustainability reporting in Singapore

High expectations for responsible corporate practice in Singapore mean businesses are under pressure to demonstrate their commitment to ESG action. Companies can achieve this by publicly disclosing information about the sustainability outcomes achieved.

Quality sustainability reporting helps private and public businesses to:

Attract investment

According to Enterprise Singapore, ESG must be prioritised to attain investments, as investors are now looking to ‘green’ their portfolios.

“Investors want to know more about the risk profile of the companies they invest in,” explains Tina.

ESG reporting allows you to demonstrate the strategies your business is using to respond to the challenges and opportunities affecting its sustainability – and the scope is broader than sustainability alone. Investors want to see how businesses operate with integrity and good social responsibility in accordance with reporting frameworks. For example, local community giving initiatives and ethical decision-making all play a role in shaping a low-carbon future. As a result, investors can have greater confidence in your potential for long-term value creation.

Achieve robust regulatory compliance

In an effort to support a sustainable economy and bring companies in line with global baseline reporting standards, Singapore’s regulatory system is escalating its requirements for ESG reporting. Businesses are under mounting pressure to disclose specific data that relates to the climate risks and opportunities most material (relevant) to them.

“Regulators want companies to start pricing in the cost of externalities, including environmental pollution and biodiversity impacts,” says Tina.

The law already requires some public-listed companies to produce sustainability reports. However, all Singaporean companies – public or private – can use sustainability reporting as a tool to elevate their reputation and protect their operational longevity.

Improve brand value

In a 2022 PWC survey, 32% of Singaporean consumers said they often or always consider governance factors when making purchasing decisions. 31% say the same about social factors. Forward-thinking businesses are tapping into this desire for responsible corporate practice by increasing the visibility of their ESG initiatives.

“ESG has become a differentiator for businesses by adding to their brand value,” Tina says.

Businesses should also recognise the potential for ESG reporting to build trust with employees, investors and business partners.

“It can help you attract the right talent and customers, and tap into new market growth opportunities arising with the evolving ESG trend,” Tina adds.

ESG Brand Value

How do I showcase my ESG efforts?

Any company can publish a statement about its commitment to ESG action. However, without hard data to back up its claims, it is unlikely to earn stakeholder trust.

Key methods to broadcast the outcomes of your sustainability efforts include:

Meeting or exceeding any regulatory reporting requirements or ESG frameworks that apply to your business (e.g. publishing your sustainability report in your annual report)
Adding a sustainability statement to your website, ensuring it describes all the processes and initiatives you have in place
Publishing case studies about ESG initiatives or projects you have actioned, with details provided about the targets you achieved against specific sustainability metrics

Keep in mind that stakeholders, who are on alert for greenwashing, will heavily scrutinise your public ESG disclosures. To illustrate your integrity, demonstrate how your ESG efforts align with your company’s core values using evidence.

What are the mandatory disclosures for ESG in Singapore?

By 2025, public-listed companies in some major industries will be required by law to disclose their ESG management in line with recommendations by the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). Listed companies outside the nominated industries will also be required to comply unless they can reasonably explain why they have taken an alternative course of action.

To provide a starting point for this transition, the Singapore Exchange (SGX) has proposed a list of core ESG metrics companies can use for their reporting.

“The core metrics are quantitative and applicable to most listed companies across various industries,” says Tina.

Examples of these metrics include:

Emissions, water management and waste generation
Gender diversity, employment, development and training, and workplace safety and health
Composition management, diversity, ethical behaviour, certifications and assurance

While the core metrics offer commonality and consistency in what companies report, be aware that it is your responsibility to disclose the information most relevant to your business.

Whilst ESG disclosures are not yet required for private companies in Singapore, ESG reporting must be a business priority if your company wants to remain competitive and be successful. ESG frameworks come in various forms, so it’s important to know what is relevant to your business.

Which ESG reporting framework should I use?

Whether you are a publicly listed or private company, to ensure your sustainability report carries weight in an increasingly global marketplace, we recommend adhering to globally recognised frameworks such as:

As a publicly listed company, you must follow SGX guidelines first and foremost; however, some industries require more robust additional reporting. For privately listed companies that don’t need to follow the standards set by SGX, you may choose based on your industry, what your competitors are using, or emerging regulations.

Do I need to conduct a materiality assessment?

Impactful ESG action starts with understanding what matters to your business and your stakeholders, and where you can make the most difference. The need for familiarity with these factors makes conducting a materiality assessment critical.

“A materiality assessment allows businesses to identify the key ESG metrics and factors relevant to them and present a risk or opportunity for the businesses,” explains Tina.

“From there, they can decide what the next steps should be in terms of how they want to respond.”

Materiality Assessment

What are the common challenges of ESG reporting, standards, and frameworks?

The main sustainability reporting challenges for businesses in Singapore include:

1. Choosing disclosure topics

According to Tina, companies often need clarification on which ESG data to include in their reports.

“ESG reporting encompasses a big list of factors,” she says. “Depending on which framework you look at, there could be as many as a hundred topics you can disclose against.”

The best framework for you will come down to various factors, such as your listing status, stakeholder expectations, size, industry, and geographical presence. After selecting your framework, conducting a materiality assessment will help identify which disclosure topics are most important for your business. Many Singaporean and multinational businesses engage with expert ESG reporting services for guidance on this matter.

2. Collecting solid, timely data

Manual tracking of sustainability efforts can be time-consuming and expensive, and the resulting data often lacks accuracy, consistency and depth.

“ESG data – especially on environmental risks and impacts – can be very difficult to collect because it may fall outside the company’s immediate control,” Tina says. “It may also sit with different people, which makes collecting and combining the data in one place a slow, arduous task.”

For many businesses, the solution lies in modernising the data collection process.

“Technology can automate some of the processes around data management and also help streamline the process,” Tina adds.

3. Setting relevant targets

Even if you have collected good data on your ESG efforts, you may be unsure how to measure sustainability performance in a meaningful way.

An ESG services provider will have a thorough understanding of ESG performance benchmarking in your industry and across the SGX, which means they can help you take steps to increase the effectiveness of your initiatives.

They can recommend achievable yet compelling ESG targets to pursue according to relevant reporting frameworks and standards such as GRI, SASB, and so on.

Relevant Targets

Can I elevate my brand image through sustainability reporting?

The best way to ensure that your sustainability reporting bolsters your reputation is by demonstrating how your ESG efforts create real change for local communities, whether your business is based in Singapore or elsewhere in the world.

“Focus on communicating the positive impact you are having within your sphere of control,” Tina says. “This will eventually help to improve your reputation, brand image and consumer engagement.”

For powerful reporting, you can also:

    Link ESG achievements back to your core brand values and the ESG issues your business is most passionate about
    Use macro indicators like the UN Sustainable Development Goals to measure the change you are stimulating on a micro level

    Enhance your sustainability reporting with BoardRoom Singapore

    BoardRoom’s ESG Access platform builds greater value into your sustainability reporting by automating your data collection, report production, and stakeholder engagement processes. Its evidence-based approach means you and your stakeholders can expect higher returns on investment in sustainability initiatives.

    With BoardRoom’s holistic approach to ESG, our services extend beyond reporting to advisory and assurance. From conducting a materiality assessment to identify which ESG issues and frameworks relate to your organisation to ensuring supply chain compliance with socially responsible business practices, we help transform your organisation into a more socially accepted, environmentally sustainable business with better risk management.

    Please contact our team in Singapore to find out more about our sustainability reporting services.

    Contact BoardRoom for more information:


    Tina Thomas

    Head of Environmental, Social and Governance

    E: [email protected]

    T: +65 6536 5355

    Related Business Insights